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Daugaard favors repeal of new ethics law

PIERRE (AP) -- Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he supports repeal or major changes to a government ethics overhaul just approved by voters this month, criticizing the campaign for the ballot measure as deceptive.

PIERRE (AP) - Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he supports repeal or major changes to a government ethics overhaul just approved by voters this month, criticizing the campaign for the ballot measure as deceptive.

Daugaard told The Associated Press that he doesn't plan to include millions of dollars of funding in his December budget proposal for a public campaign finance system established under the new law. Backers pursued the initiative even though nonpartisan South Dakota officials raised constitutional concerns, Daugaard said.

More than two dozen Republican lawmakers and others filed a lawsuit Wednesday in state court challenging the constitutionality of the ballot measure. Daugaard said he'd support rolling back the measure if it isn't struck down in court.

"I think it's very possible the entire measure will be held unconstitutional," he said. "If not, I'll be very surprised if the Legislature doesn't support wholesale changes - if not outright repeal."

Roughly 51.6 percent of voters supported the initiative. It allows people to tap a state fund to send two $50 credits to participating political candidates, tightens campaign finance and lobbying laws and creates an ethics commission.

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Supporters billed it as an anti-corruption package, arguing the overhaul is meant to improve transparency and empower regular people.

Daugaard said he believes voters were deceived by advertising for the measure that implied lobbyists were bribing legislators while ignoring the public campaign finance provisions. That funding could go to other priorities such as education or public safety, he said.

Daugaard said voters expressed their interest in campaign finance reform and an examination of state ethics laws. He said it would be a "suitable effort" to be undertaken through the Legislature.

Daugaard's criticisms add to other officials' concerns over the law that have mounted since its passage. One of its provisions, a $100 annual limit on lobbyist gifts, was creating uncertainty among some lawmakers over events for lawmakers.

Last year, the director of the Legislative Research Council said provisions devoting money to a fund for the public campaign finance program could violate the state constitution.

"It just offends me that out-of-staters will craft policy for our state and then fund that change ... and disregard the fact that it violates our constitution or that the language is so sloppily written that it causes many unintended consequences," Daugaard said.

Supporters took those concerns seriously but have a good team of lawyers who are confident that the measure adheres to constitutional requirements, said Don Frankenfeld, a former GOP senator who helped pass the measure. He didn't immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Frankenfeld said he's open to working with the governor's office to make changes to the measure, but wants to keep the core of the law intact.

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"I think it's just bad policy to ignore the will of the people, and I would have expected the Legislature to have learned that by now," Frankenfeld said. "If we have to fight, we'll fight, and if we have to take it again to the people that's what we'll do."

 

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